Eat, Drink and Be Merry Without the Guilt

It’s December — time for parties, baked goods and gatherings centered on large meals … and if you’re not careful, growing waistlines. Don’t let this season of indulgence run away with your good intentions.

Here are some tips on how to avoid common pitfalls during the holidays, according to Jamey Baietto, MS, RDN, LDN, and Shae Mowry, MS, RDN, LDN, two registered dietitians with Memorial Wellness Center.

Pitfall: It is cold out – time for festive specialty coffee drinks, hot cocoa and skipping the gym!
Solution: Instead of filling up on full-calorie beverages, satisfy your craving for something warm and sweet with a mug of sugar-free hot cocoa mixed with skim milk or water for even fewer calories. At the coffee shop, consider ordering your specialty drink with skim milk, sugar-free syrup and no whipped cream. Try herbal teas for a variety of flavors with zero calories! Mix up your workout routine by exercising along to your favorite workout video in the comfort of home. Check out free videos on YouTube or find phone fitness apps that match your workout interests.

Pitfall: The resident baker in your office keeps bringing in cookies and other treats to sample.
Solution: Moderation is key! Instead of sampling everything every day, limit yourself to just one treat per day. Also, remember to eat a balanced breakfast so you aren’t as tempted to overindulge on free goodies at work. On days you know there will be treats at work, pack a lighter lunch — broth-based soup and a salad with light dressing, for example — to allow extra calories for a snack. Remember to include protein at all meals and snacks for balance and to keep you feeling satisfied. This will help lessen the craving to overindulge!

Pitfall: Lunches out with friends and co-workers to exchange gifts and celebrate the season.
Solution: Many restaurants offer online menus and nutrition information. Check out what’s available beforehand and choose lighter options like a grilled chicken sandwich or salmon salad. Consider splitting an entrée with your co-worker. Also, remember to ask for a to-go container when the meal is served so you can take half home to enjoy another day.

Pitfall: Holiday parties – appetizers, alcoholic drinks and large buffets.
Solution: Avoid the over-filled plate. Spread treats out to ensure you don’t eat more than you intend. For alcohol, transform your favorite wine into a wine spritzer. Mix three ounces of wine with three ounces of diet lemon-lime (or club soda). Be sure to drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to help stay hydrated.

Pitfall: Your annual baking list — butter, sugar and chocolate, oh my!
Solution: Try baking healthier sweets for your family and friends. Visit the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Center at for low-fat alternatives to your favorite recipes. Also consider making “special” treats rather than ones that can be made all year around.

Pitfall: So many opportunities for chocolate and candy.
Solution: Instead of doling out sweets for holiday traditions, consider fresh fruit, granola bars and even 100-calorie snack packs. Gas cards, lottery tickets or scented lotions are also awesome ideas for “big kids.”

Pitfall: The big meal itself – what’s a holiday without a main dish, side dishes galore and a beautiful spread of pies and cookies?
Solution: Fortunately weight gain doesn’t happen overnight – rather it is the accumulation of several days of overeating. Aim for being consistent rather than being perfect. Use these tips to better balance your eating habits at luncheons, parties and cookie exchanges prior to big celebrations that center around one meal. Happy Holidays!

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